On December 4, 2017 Clinton Public Schools, the Clinton Police Department, and Partners in Community presented on Substance Use Trends and Prevention at the Morgan School.
The results from the 2016 and 2017 student substance use surveys were discussed by Kelley Edwards, and overall the news is very good. Click here for a copy of the handout. Due to a concerted partnership between PiC, parents, youth, the school system, the Clinton PD, and many other community stakeholders, we are seeing shifts downward in alcohol, marijuana and tobacco use by teens. Use rates are the lowest they have been since 2005, when the surveys were first administered to 7-12 graders.
These declines in use are attributed to intentionally changing the perception of harm of use of substances, an increasing sense of peer disapproval of use, and also the disapproval of use by parents. The 2014 survey had indicated that the use of marijuana was rising, mostly due to the students’ perception that use was safe. The state of CT had legalized use of marijuana for medical purposes, and had “decriminalized” possession, which most teens errantly understood to mean “possession is legal”. In 2015-16 the definition of decriminalization was clarified and PiC and REACT focused campaigns on educating students and parents that use of marijuana before one’s brain is developed fully can be very harmful. By increasing students’ awareness of harm of use and by bolstering peer support for non-use, the prevention campaigns resulted in decreasing numbers of students using marijuana.
One substance that did not decline in use, however, was nicotine in Vapes or E-Cigarettes. Morgan students report 16-29% of each class have used a vape within the last 30 days. Most students who vape report using the Juul with nicotine-infused flavored liquids. Others state that tobacco and marijuana are also used in the vapes. The Clinton Police and Kelley Edwards showed attendees slides of what the Juul looks like, and how students are actually charging them on their chrome books during class. The perception of harm of use of these products is very low at Morgan, with some students believing that they are just vaping water. REACT will be conducting an educational campaign about vapes in early 2018.
Additionally in the presentation, the Clinton Police discussed the prevalence of opioid use in the community, as well as powdered cocaine. Clinton is not immune to the epidemic that our entire country is facing with misuse and addiction to pain medication and heroin. The Chief cited that Clinton lost three residents in 2016 to fatal overdose, and so far in 2017 two residents passed away due to overdose. More than 40 calls for overdose were responded to by the police and emergency services in town, with residents lives saved by administration of Narcan. The police officers also noted that powdered cocaine is making a comeback in the area, and the concern is escalated by it being “Cut” with chemicals like fentanyl, which can be instantly fatal to the user.
The police also showed parents in attendance photos of edible marijuana items which are popular and able to be ordered online. One of the dangers of using edibles is that the serving size is often a very small portion of the whole. For example, a marijuana brownie might have a serving size of only 1/6 of the whole. Not many people would read the label, and wind up quite ill from eating too much marijuana. Accidental ingestion of high levels of marijuana via edibles is an issue seen at many emergency rooms.
Another trend frequently seen by police, and verified by Morgan students, is the consumption of “Drank”, or “Purp” or “Lean”. This is a combination of cough syrup, sprite and a jolly rancher candy. Students use this combination because it makes the drink very sweet, yet the codeine in the cough syrup creates the high.
If you would like a paper copy of the survey results please contact Kelley Edwards at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 860-664-1142.
This school year on the first Wednesday of every month, teams of therapy dogs and their handlers from Connecticut’s Pet Partners visit Morgan during the X-block period. The dogs come in and are available throughout the upper hub, the lower hub, and in the faculty lounge for students to sit with, pet, and just generally spend time around during their open period. The canine program is being offered to students this year in response to student focus group feedback indicating that stress levels are very high at Morgan. Research studies indicate that interactions with therapy animals can decrease stress in humans. “Playing with or petting an animal can increase levels of the stress-reducing hormone oxytocin and decrease production of the stress hormone cortisol.” claims Animal Smart , a website offering science-based information about animals to kids. A research study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information finds that “just being in the presence of a companion animal, is associated with health benefits, including improvements in mental, social, and physiologic health status”.
All Pet Partners teams are insured, and risk management is very high, as Pet Partners requires the highest of standards from their teams. Pet Partners licenses the teams of dogs and handlers, requiring examinations, testing and recertification for the animals and the handlers every two years. It is an extremely safe program and best of all- is offered for no cost at all to the students. The handlers volunteer their time to be with the students, a genuine gift that benefits all parties!
Some examples of the dogs visiting include: an English Setter named Charlie, a German Shepard named Vago, a Rottweiler mix named Roxy, a Golden Retriever named Ares, a small Japanese Shih Tzu named Cocoa, an Australian Shepard named Gus, and numerous others!
Feedback from the students has been very positive about the visits. Some students really look forward to the first Wednesday of the month, knowing that their school day will include some dog time. From an informal survey taken in December 2016, PiC found that 36 of 36 students questioned felt that the dogs were a good idea to have at school. 33 out of 36 respondents stated that they experienced decreased stress from interacting with or viewing the dogs (29 reported that they had actually pet or interacted with the dogs personally). Some personal comments included: Cool Idea
Keep the dogs! They are great. I wish they came more often.
This is a good program to have.
Be wary of people with allergies, but it is a wonderful thing to have the dogs visit.
Bring the dogs all the time.
I would like them here every week!
Another informal survey done by the Morgan Paw Print staff found that “35 of the 40 students interviewed said that the dogs benefitted the students and that bringing them here is a great idea. 4 of the students interviewed were unsure, and only 1 of the interviewed students out of the 40 believed that the dogs were not a good idea, [citing reasons such as allergies].”
The canine program at Morgan serves as a reminder to students to make stress reduction a priority. Some students have shared that their peers make “having stress” into a competition sometimes, fighting for who has more to do, or who has more stress overall. They agree that it can lead to a very unhealthy environment! Pressures from self, parents, coaches, teachers, peers and college drive students to not sleep, over commit, and not make healthy choices, which leads to stress and ultimately physical and/or mental illness. From surveys completed recently by PiC, we have seen that depression and even suicidal ideation are factors in roughly 1 out of 5 Morgan students; substance use in response to stress (self medication) occurs in roughly 1 in 4 Morgan students. The need to develop smart, healthy stress reduction techniques is essential!
PiC is also planning individual workshops on stress during X block in the next couple of months. Students will be able to learn about their own stress responses, outline sensible plans for combatting stress, and even create small stress reducing accessories that they can use during the school day.
Six Morgan teens travelled with five Daniel Hand (Madison) students to Bryant University in Providence, RI.
From July 28-31, 2017, six Morgan students took part in Youth 2 Youth International’s Eastern States Conference at Bryant University in Providence, RI. Along with 560 fellow students from the tri-state area and as far away as Minnesota and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Morgan students learned essential information about preventing marijuana and opioid use, underage drinking, and making a positive impact in their communities and schools.
The keynote speakers at the conference challenged the attendees to expand their self awareness and advocacy. One speaker watched her twin sister perish as a passenger in a reckless driving accident as a teenager. Her message reminded youth to put their own comfort and safety first, and offered creative ways to escape uncomfortable situations. Another presenter acted out numerous versions of himself and challenged the audience to try to guess which character most represented the “real” him. Most were surprised to learn which one it actually was! His message brought forth the importance of realizing ALL people are real, are never just a stereotype, and have valid and moving stories that make them who they are.
The Clinton teens returned to town feeling armed with new information and motivated to educate their peers. Following the conference, several of the conference attendees met to plan out a new calendar for Morgan REACT. This school year, look for mental illness and health information, education about vaping and related dangers to your health, more marijuana “truths”, as well as an honoring of Suicide Awareness Month in September. Haunted Hallways will still be offered in October, and the club members will host topic and issue discussions throughout the school year. Morgan REACT members will continue to be involved with the younger Eliot and Pierson REACTs as well as PiC!
Clinton is fortunate to have pharmacist Tracey Leary as both a resident and employee of ShopRite pharmacy. Tracey is the Pharmacy Supervisor for Shoprite Pharmacy in Clinton, Norwich and New London. When the State of CT made an online certification course on prescribing Narcan available, Tracey jumped at the opportunity. Certifying herself as well as all of the Shoprite pharmacists, Tracey has made Shoprite the first pharmacy in Clinton to offer a life-saving medication to individuals coping with opioid or heroin addiction- Narcan.
Narcan instantly reverses the suffocating effects of heroin and opioids, and permits the individual to breathe on their own until medical assistance arrives. With over 440 deaths in Connecticut last year, heroin and opioid overdoses are at epidemic proportions, and Narcan can be key in providing these persons with another chance at life.
Partners in Community is thrilled to have Tracey as a partner in our efforts to empower Clinton residents and promote the health of young and old. For more information on obtaining Narcan, please call Shoprite at (860) 669-0107.
Here’s more on Tracey:
Your Name and Title: Tracey Leary RPh – Pharmacy Supervisor for Shoprite Pharmacy – Clinton, New London and Norwich
How are you a Partner in Community:
Shoprite Pharmacy is your community drug store – we are locally owned and operated by the Capano Family. My pharmacists are all Narcan certified. This means that we can dispense Narcan to those individuals who have a need or want to have Narcan on hand. Patients do not need a prescription, they can simply come into one of our 3 stores and ask for Narcan. My pharmacists will dispense a life-saving narcan kit and also personally train each individual on how to use the kit.
Why is it important to be involved?
Growing up in Clinton and also raising a family in this town, makes me feel very proud to be part of an organization that is helping today’s youth. I want people to know that at Shoprite we care about our community and we will do what it takes to make this town great.
What do you hope to accomplish?
What I hope to accomplish is that people in this town realize that there is an opioid problem. We need to work together to combat this problem, but also I want people to know that they can come into Shoprite and receive a Narcan kit that someday may save someone’s life.
If Ben & Jerry’s named an ice cream after you, what would it be called?
Community Care Crunch!!!!